Make It Better Guide to a Gap Year

The school counselor mentioned a “gap year.” What is a gap year? Would it be good for your young adult?

In many countries, taking a gap year before, during or after college—for travel, work or study—has long been a normal rite of passage for young adults. That practice has only recently been significantly embraced in the United States. Harvard Dean Of Admissions William Fitzsimmons added substantial momentum to the movement with his article advocating for gap years, “Time Out or Burn Out.”

Actually though, gap years can be appropriate and energizing at most stages of life. A plethora of gap year programs and resources have developed too. This guide will kick start your gap year thoughts and answer your most pressing questions about the basics, program options, experiences and potential impact of a Gap Year for you or your child.



  • The Real-World Advantages of a Gap Year
  • The Importance of Taking a Gap Year
  • Half Gap Year: Make the Most of January Admits
  • Gap Year: 9 Great Reasons to Consider
  • Northbrook’s Ethan Steinberg Blogs His Gap Year Teaching English in Nepal
  • College Prep: Should Your Child Take a Gap Year?
  • The 4-Year Fork in the Road: College Alternatives
  • Mind the Gap


  • The Case for Taking a Midlife ‘Gap’ Year (Wall Street Journal)
  • Delaying College to Fill in the Gaps (Wall Street Journal)
  • Slideshow (Wall Street Journal)
  • Is a “Gap Year” Right for Your Family? (Wall Street Journal)
  • As Jan. 1 Application Deadline Nears, an Argument for a Yearlong Breather (NY Times)
  • The Gap Year: Breaking up the “Cradle to College to Cubicle to Cemetery” Cycle (NY Times)
  • University introduces gap-year plan for new admits (The Daily Princetonian)
  • One year later, gap year thrives (The Daily Princetonian)


  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Proposals to Help Fund Adult Education, Grown-Up “Gap” Years (Forbes)
  • Graduating? Consider a post-grad gap year (USA Today College)


  • Gap Year on a Budget
  • A student’s ‘gap year’ need not break the bank (Today)


On the Web: Local & National Gap Year Resources


Mine the Gap – A Chicago-area based program “designed to give seniors and graduates who wish to take a GAP year after high school a structured way to prepare for the next phase of life by introducing them to a variety of theme-based modules and experiences.”


Americorps – Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible for Americorps, which offers thousands of service programs, inlcludes a living allowance, and almost $5,000 for college upon completion.

Bridgton Academy – A boys-only preparatory school located in Maine, that offers specialized programming that develops academic skills, study skills, self-discipline and confidence. 12 courses with transferable college credit are available.

Center for Interim Programs – Founded in 1980, The Center for Interim Programs is the first and longest-running independent gap-year counseling organization in the United States.

Disney CareerStart Program – A 7-month, “structured living, learning and earning program for high school graduates who are unsure of their future path and looking for a new experience that will provide them more than just a job.”

G.A.P. Adventures – More than 20 years old, this program specializes in unique, smal group travel experiences, with more than 1,000 choices in over 100 countries.

Global Volunteer Network – An opportunity to work, volunteer, live and learn while traveling abroad, with programs ranging from academic year-length to homestay and work and travel options, in more than 30 countries worldwide.

LeapYear Experiential College Alternatives and Internships – Three-months and nine-month programs are just two types of LeapYear opportunities, ranging from educational to work-based immersion into different cultures around the world.

Seamester – Educational opprtunities at sea, usually a semester long, during which students spend that time sailing between islands countries and even continents–all while earning college credit.

Projects Abroad – Projects Abroad is one of the largest overseas volunteer organizations in the world.  Founded in 1992, it sends over 8,000 people a year on a variety of international service projects and internships. 

USA Gap Year Fairs – National circuit of events that bring together reputable Gap Year organizations, interested students and parents, high school college counselors and the Gap Year experts.

Where There Be Dragons – An encounter-based travel opportunity for students looking for a “profoundly educational experience” in countries such as India and China.

Gap Year Experiences:


Care for Christchurch – One young man’s experience in New Zealand during the February 2011 earthquake and its aftermath.

New Life Travel – An online travelogue following the adventures of a Wilmette-based “23-year-old corporate dropout” as he travels the globe.

Lucy Griswold’s video blog: American Identity and Global Leadership from Thinking Beyond Borders on Vimeo.



The Gap-Year Advantage: Helping Your Child Benefit from Time Off Before or During College
by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson



Ready or Not, Here Life Comes
by Dr. Mel Levine




The Complete Guide to the Gap Year: The Best Things to Do Between High School and College
by Kristin M. White

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